Access to Justice Commission Updates February 27 2014

EXPANDING THE HOUSING COURT TO THE ENTIRE STATE

The Judicial Branch has proposed to the Legislature that the Housing Court be expanded to cover the entire state.  At the present time, only 80% of the state has access to a housing court. Since the areas without housing court tend to have larger populations, only 70% of the state’s population has the benefits of the specialized judges and the housing court specialists.  In the press release announcing the proposal, Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey is quoted as saying, “The expansion offers all parties involved in housing issues — landlords, tenants, property owners, and code enforcers — the benefits of the efficiency and expertise of Housing Court adjudication in a broad range of cases.”  The expansion proposal is based on the recommendation of the Access to Justice Commission.  Commission co-chair, SJC Associate Justice Ralph D. Gants, said “All residents of the Commonwealth, regardless of where they live, should have the opportunity to have their housing case heard by a Housing Court.”  The press release is attached.

COURT SEEKS COMMENT ON PUTTING “ACCESS TO JUSTICE” ON THE BAR EXAM

The Supreme Judicial Court has published for comment the proposal of the Access to Justice Commission that “access to justice” be added to the bar exam as a topic.  The proposal is supported by the Board of Bar Examiners, the Massachusetts Bar Association and the Boston Bar Association.  Comments are due by March 24.  http://www.mass.gov/courts/sjc/proposed-amendment-bbe-rules.html.  The new topic would include substantive areas of law in which there is a high incidence of unmet legal needs; ethical issues that arise when not all litigants are fully represented; and due process doctrines related to fair hearings.

BILEK AND MANNINA APPOINTED TO ACCESS TO JUSTICE COMMISSION

The Supreme Judicial Court has appointed Mary Lu Bilek and Jonathan Mannina as the newest members of the Access to Justice Commission.  Bilek is the dean of the University of Massachusetts School of Law, located in Dartmouth, MA.  Mannina is Executive Director of Community Legal Aid, the legal services program that serves the five western counties of Massachusetts.  Their terms expire in one year because the Commission is subject to a “sunset” review by the Court during the coming year.

NEXT COMMISSION MEETING: MARCH 27

The next meeting of the Access to Justice Commission will take place at 3:00 on Thursday, March 27, in the Fifth Floor Conference Room of the Social Law Library, located in the Adams Courthouse in Boston.  The meeting is open to the public.

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